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The Changes, or Love in a Maze is a Caroline era stage play, a comedy of manners written by James Shirley, first published in 1639. It was one of Shirley's most popular comedies, especially in the Restoration era. The play (which involves an actual maze in its final act) is almost universally known by its subtitle.


The play was licensed for performance by Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels, 10 January, 1632. Unusually for a Shirley play of this period, Love in a Maze was acted by the King's Revels Men at the Salisbury Court Theatre, rather than the troupe for which Shirley normally wrote, Queen Henrietta's Men.

The 1639 quarto was published by the bookseller William Cooke, and was dedicated to "the right honourable the Lady Dorothy Shirley," the wife of Sir Robert Shirley, baronet. Shirley the dramatist may have been related to this prominent Shirley family of Warwickshire.[1]

The play was revived and performed often during the Restoration; Samuel Pepys saw it five times between May 1662 and April 1668, as recorded in his famous Diary.[2] The comic actor John Lacy achieved a great popular success in the role of Johnny Thump. Love in a Maze was also performed at the Inns of Court in 1664, and John Dryden adapted material from the play for his The Maiden Queen (1668).

Shirley's popular play influenced subsequent works by other writers of his era, including The Lovesick Court by Richard Brome and The Ladies' Privilege by Henry Glapthorne.


Gerard, a fashionable young gentleman about town, is in love with two sisters, Chrysolina and Aurelia, and is unable to choose between them. Compounding the difficulty, they both love him. (Mrs. Goldsworth, their mother, wants Aurelia to marry Sir Gervase Simple, a rich but clownish newly minted knight.) Gerard wants his friend Thornay to fall in love with one of the sisters himself, so that Gerard can then choose the other. The sisters, though, are not receptive to this arrangement, and dismiss both the young men.

Eugenia is a former inamorata of Thornay. Eugenia's uncle wants her to marry Yongrave, who loves her; but Eugenia employs Yongrave to ask Thornay to return to her. Chrysolina learns of Thornay's abandonment of Eugenia and Yongrave's noble and chivalrous conduct in the matter; she falls in love with Yongrave as a result — thus solving Gerard's original problem. Thornay returns to Eugenia, leaving Gerard with Aurelia. Sir Gervase Simple falls in love with and marries a Lady Bird, who turns out to be a boy page in disguise, put up for the prank by Caperwit the poetaster.

Three contented couples and a wedding masque provide the appropriate ending for the comedy. The main plot is supported by a roster of comic figures, notably the previously-mentioned Sir Gervase Simple and Caperwit, and Johnny Thump, the servant of Sir Gervase.


  1. ^ Nason, pp. 8-10.
  2. ^ Wheatley p. 293.


  • Forsythe, Robert Stanley. The Relations of Shirley's Plays to the Elizabethan Drama. New York, Columbia University Press, 1914.
  • Nason, Arthur Huntington. James Shirley, Dramatist: A Biographical and Critical Study. New York, 1915; reprinted New York, Benjamin Blom, 1967.
  • Wheatley, Henry Benjamin. Samuel Pepys and the World He Lived In. London, Bickers and Son, 1880.

3 Annotations

First Reading

TerryF  •  Link

Changes: or, Love in a maze. a comedie, as it was presented at the Private House in Salisbury Court, by the Company of His Majesties Revels. Written by Iames Shirley, James Shirley
London : Printed by G[eorge] P[urslowe] for William Cooke, and are to be sold at his shop neere Furnivals Inne gate in Holborne, 1632.…

Anonymous on Sun 22 May 2005, ad 22 May 1662

There are a number of plays called “Love in a Maze”, but only one was written in 1632 and revised in 1662. It’s a comedy by James Shirley,… .

It’s not available online, but here’s a summary from "[The play is admirably named, since the plot is so contrived that the three pairs of lovers attach and detach their affections as often as possible in the course of five acts.] The farce consists in dressing up a page as a rich widow, who is wooed by the foolish knight, Sir Gervase Simple. An amusing piece of satirical literary criticism is introduced in the scene where Caperwit, the poetaster, discusses the function of adjectives in verse.”

Alan Bedford on Sun 22 May 2005, ad 22 May 1662

“Changes, or Love in a Maze” was a comedy of manners by James Shirley (9/1596 - 10/1666). Here’s an excerpt:

Melancholy, hence ! go get
Some piece of earth to be thy seat;
Here the air and nimble fire
Would shoot up to meet desire;
Sullen humor, leave her blood,
Mix not with the purer flood,
But let pleasures swelling there
Make a springtide all the year.

A short biography of the playwright at:

General discussion of Shirley’s comedies may be found in “The Cambridge History of English and American Literature” at:…

nix  •  Link

Irt can now be found online, through Google books.

Search +shirley +"love in a maze" and scroll down to page 269

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Changes: or, Love in a maze A comedie, as it was presented at the Private House in Salisbury Court, by the Company of His Majesties Revels. Written by Iames Shirley, Gent.
Shirley, James, 1596-1666.
London: Printed by G[eorge] P[urslowe] for William Cooke, and are to be sold at his shop neere Furnivals Inne gate in Holborne, 1632.
Early English Books Online [full text]…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.




  • May